Inspired by the example of the legendary WPA American Guide series of the 1930s and '40s, fifty of our foremost writers have produced original pieces of reportage and memoir that capture the fifty states in our time, creating a fresh portrait of America as it lives and breathes today.
These 50 writers tell us something lasting and revealing about each state through personal memory or contemporary reporting that captures the essential qualities that make each state its own. With an array of revealing facts and figures comparing the 50 states in a range of surprising measures (toothlessness, military enlistment, suicide), State by State is more than an anthology: It is a classic American road movie in book form. Featuring original writing on all fifty states.
Entered Union 1819 (22nd)
Origin of name Possibly from a Choctaw Indian word meaning "thicket-clearers" or "vegetation-gatherers"
Nickname Yellowhammer State
Motto Audemus jura nostra defendere ("We dare defend our rights")
Residents Alabamian or Alabaman
U.S. Representatives 7
State bird yellowhammer
State flower camellia
State tree Southern longleaf pine
State song "Alabama"
Land area 50,744 sq. mi.
Geographic center In Chilton Co., 12 mi. SW of Clanton
American Indian 0.5%
Under 18 26.3%
65 and over 13.0%
Median age 35.8
In the summer of 1980, when I was nineteen, I worked as a $600-a-month intern at a government-funded poverty law center in Alabama, renting a matchbox house with two black law students at the crumbling edge of downtown Mobile. It was a record hot summer, at a record high in urban ...
18 members reviewed "State by State", all of them rating it 4 or 5 out of 5 stars! It's clear this one is a winner, and reader Darra W. tells us why
If you've ever wondered about the 21st-century relevance of our national motto - Out of Many, One - wonder no more. This fascinating collection of 50 essays, one per state, each penned by a different writer, is a tour de force of letters and lore, affirming both the rugged individuality and the common threads that personify the American Experience. Each narrative opens with a mini-almanac of state facts; the compendium is enhanced with appendices of relevant tables and a signature of photos, the latter provided by the individual authors.
The essays are eclectic in content and style. The iconic Merritt Parkway surfaces as central metaphor in the mini-memoir penned by Connecticut native son, Rick Moody. John Hodgman's riff on the uniqueness of Massachusetts is delivered with the dry wit of the observational humorist. Jonathan Franzen attempts a tongue-in-cheek interview with New York State. Daphne Beal waxes nostalgic about the life "ballast" cemented by her Wisconsin childhood. Joe Sacco (Oregon) and Alison Bechdel (Vermont) employ the comic strip to tell their stories. Some entries are love songs to "the old home state," others chronicle the immigrant experience, still others recall a temporary, but memorable sojourn to the state in question.
Despite the diversity of subject matter and tone, there are certain recurring threads. The decimation and continued isolation of the native peoples; the emergence (or exacerbation) of intrastate political and geographical polarities; concern for the environment: these oft-repeating themes demonstrate that, regardless of our individual experiences, we do - on occasion - think as one. State by State is the kind of book you can swallow in a gulp, or savor state by state as the mood moves you. It would make a great book club read; if your group is feeling particularly ambitious, pair it up with Travels with Charley, Steinbeck's 1962 classic. (Darra W.) (Reviewed by BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers).
Full Review (830 words).
The WPA's American Guide Series
State by State was inspired by the American Guide Series, a project that grew out of The Federal Writers Program (FWP). FWP was established in 1935 as part of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), a New Deal agency created by Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The FWP employed over 6000 Depression-era writers, editors, historians, researchers, art critics, archaeologists, geologists and cartographers. They collected folklore, slave narratives, and other oral histories, committing much of America's intangible history to paper. Thousands of writers worked on the project, making about $80 a month, working 20 to 30 hours a week. The poet W.H. Auden called it "one of the noblest and most absurd undertakings ever ...
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